Monday, June 1, 2009

You heard it first on Twitter

Last week was quite a mixed bag for me. It began with a very successful cluster staff meeting where our seven schools from Manaiakalani came together for a celebration on Monday after school and our lead teachers ran workshops (with quite a bit of help from their students), to show the rest of the teachers in the cluster what they had achieved in the last 12 months. They presented in pairs and they were all fabulous, but possibly the show stealer was the presentation where Delwyn's 5 /6 year olds presented their project alongside Karen's 16/17 yr olds. Hard to argue with a concept where 5 year olds and 17 year olds are together presenting 21st century eLearning projects to improve their literacy outcomes!

On Tuesday I had to rapidly change gears and start working on the annual milestone report for our project that was due to be given the powers-that-be in Wellington on Friday. Needless to say I spent the rest of the week ignoring the wonderful things that were happening in classes and focussed on crunching numbers and making sure that I satisfactorily reported on all the outcomes we are working towards. Because I was running a tad late with this I turned off all RSS feeds, Twitter and Facebook and anything else that might be distracting. This included the presentation of the Budget on Thursday night. So it was with some relief on Friday afternoon that I declared it finished and shared the Google Doc with all interested parties, then went online to see what I had missed in the few days off-line. It was a tweet from @sumich (see above) that grabbed my attention. I am so glad that I didn't know about it while I was writing my report. The EHSAS funding which enables Manaiakalani has been cancelled from the end of this year and the funding is being redistributed into other education initiatives instead.

Wow, the end of a dream - or is it? The thing about writing milestones, as a few friends have reminded me, is that while it is a chore and a bore to make sure your writing is in Ministry jargon etc, the opportunity to look at all the data and revisit your goals and evaluate progress is invaluable. What did I find? I decided to share our Google Doc with the public since the government has obviously lost interest, so click here to read the 30 odd pages. Some real highlights came through. We are looking to raise student achievement in literacy while offering a 21st century approach to learning and guess what - in the first year of what was meant to be a three year project- our Maori students made 5.2 times the expected national shift in writi
ng (as tested by asTTle)! We are excited!

So a further tweet during Friday evening from @craigprice who has also lost EHSAS funding for his school from the budget cuts brought a good challenge, "the things of most importance will continue"...It will be a great test of passion and character to not only see the year out strongly while the funding remains, but to also ensure that our beliefs are firmly embedded and can continue after the funding has ended to provide a new way of learning in the 21st century for our students.
And it will be interesting to see how the government uses the money that is being taken from Maniakalani to be put into programmes to raise Maori students' achievement.
All we can hope is that someone in the Ministry of Education will read our milestone report and say, "This looks like an intervention that is working with Maori students - why don't we give this a go?"


  1. What a shame to lose such well spent funding!! It must be a bitter-sweet pill to have made such clear gains and gathered such strong data to support them in such a short time. They would be mad to miss the opportunity to use what you've developed in some other capacity. I wonder how the money will be allocated next year.

    I haven't had the heart to make our second EHSAS blog post an article about losing the funding. I think it's important we get on and do the good stuff anyway. Could be a bit of a fun challenge really.
    Congratulations on such great improvement in your kids achievement.
    Just make sure you're getting on well with the principal and I'm sure he'll find a way to keep you on. :)

  2. Hi Dorothy. The funding vs function dilema. Firstly with out reading the 30 pages the evidence of asttle cannot be discounted. 5.2times the national change. This to me is an indicator that nationally we can "do much better' and that we should support the programmes where we 'do much better". I am not sure we had quite the same success with our ictpd cluster but we have chosen to fund this ourselves for 2009 going forward. The ministry could look to how to extend the higher standards being achieved by Manaiakalani, take some best evidence and extend this further. I would say that while these programmes have had mixed success the attempts to replicate and develop what has been achieved have been somewhat limited. Please ministry and minister folk think about what you want to achieve/fund and extend where that achievement will come from ie professional learning communities and schools that learn.

  3. @Pete Hall and @Dave Winter I think the surprise/shock factor for me was because a part of the milestone report is writing the Action Plan for the next year or two (which I deleted from the Google Doc I published as it seemd a bit redundent now!) and it had got us all fired up with ideas and plans.
    The easiest way to move forward now is to switch mental tracks to understanding that we are now in the final 6 months of our final year. So how can we get maximum buy in from staff and schools and make the biggest difference in our students achievement? What do teachers need to know and do to embed what we are finding in their practise so they can move forward in 2010 without the support of a cluster?

  4. I would like to say that although the process may not be funded its not actually going to end.

    As someone who benefited hugely from being part of your cluster in 2008 I can say that I have already in a sense moved on. I would love to read the document that you've mentioned in the post, but when you click on the link it takes you to a login screen. Anyway my site from the cluster last year is about to receive its 10,000 visitor. My new site for 2009 has clocked up 4,500 visitors in five months, and there's something in the region of 30,000 views of material from the 2008 work. I've started blogging at a school that's never done it, and were about to move into a school wide mode. I've also helped establish blogs in Canada and Australia for teachers. None of this would have been possible without your leadership and hard work and involvement last year. Its viral in a sense that I will keep preaching the lessons that I have learnt for as long as I teach, and I think that will have an impact long past the end of any funding date. None of this would have been possible without what has already been achieved and your hard work so the project will live on through all those that were involved in it, and the students will never forget it.

  5. How frustrating for you...such incredible things being achieved, now potentially gone at the stroke of a pen (and probably a crusty old excel sheet). Still it's in times like these that creativity REALLY comes to the fore. Making more from less seems to be the Nat's mantra at the moment. Hopefully you can find a way with the powers-that-be to continue the great work you are doing.

    Here I am feeling annoyed at having filled out a 2010 ehsas application when you have done so much already. Kia Kaha!

  6. Thank you for sharing your report Dorothy. The impact of the your project has already reached beyond the borders of your cluster through your blogs, the generous reflections of your teachers on the ICT in English earlier this year and also many of the collaborations and discussions that students and teachers from Manaiakalani have contributed too. The difference you are making to student achievement in your cluster schools as well as the increase in teacher motivation and engagement that you report have 'revitalised' teachers, have implications for professional development programmes that we can all learn from.

  7. @NZWaikato thanks very much for that Myles. I think you have demonstrated what is clear with any successful intervention or PD. When the programme ends (or in your case the person leaves) the test is whether it carries on and is embedded in the practice of the participants. Your initial project and now the new one you are carrying out, having the opportunity to start again with your 2008 experiences to shape it, gives me a lot of confidence that we have made some significant discoveries about 21st century learners.
    BTW, I hope I have fixed that link so it doesn't require a password now.
    @Danny I think you have the most right to feel frustrated. At least we got to benefit from the excrutiating form-filling application process. I would feel much worse in your shoes!
    @fionagrant Thanks for your encouragement and especially supporting our teachers/students. The model you created with the ICT in English blog is fantastic because not every teacher has the urge to maintain a personal blog, but having the opportunity to contribute when the muse is stirring is very valuable. We need more of these I suspect.

  8. I found out about the slashed funding during a cluster visit when I was asked about the future of ICT PD in light of the demise of EHSAS. I was really surprised to hear that projects that had already started weren't being carried on and did think of those of you working within the EHSAS framework. You'll have to let us know your next move in light of this upheaval. I will go and check out your report - thanks for sharing!